I have half hour weekly one on one meetings with my manager, Dave. We usually talk about work, life, and career goals. Before these meetings, I felt uncomfortable to give or ask for feedback without implying something was wrong. These regular and short meetings also allow us to highlight achievements, and to bring up small concerns before they grow into large ones.
Although we meet regularly, here are a few things I do to make the most of these meetings.
Before each meeting, I spend roughly 15 minutes preparing a simple bullet point list of topics I want to cover. This agenda gives Dave a preview, and a chance to gather relevant information. It's also useful during the meeting as an outline. I usually include:
I like to jot down notes as we talk. I write down things I find useful or want to think about after the meeting. Some examples include feedback about ways I can improve, feedback about how my manager could make my project run smoother, and things that are happening outside of my project that's relevant to my interests. It's a good time to discover new projects and opportunities. I find that the agenda will often trigger us to share bits of useful information that would've otherwise gone unmentioned.
Before we end a meeting, we talk about things that need follow up. It could be an idea that needs more research, or it could be coordinating schedules for a team offsite. Whatever these may be, we decide who is responsible, and when it needs to be done.
After each meeting, I dump my notes into a email reply for review at the following meeting. Dedicated review time is great because we know we'll revisit things the following week, so there's no need to waste brain cycles worrying during the week.
Dave and I have gotten to know each other better through these one on ones. Even with an agenda, they feel casual and easy going. We live in different cities, so most of our meetings happen over video chat, but when we are in the same place, we like to do go for a walk or have a chat over coffee.
Learning about the other person's goals and background subtly shapes our interactions. Over time, we build up our trust in each other, and become more effective in our day to day work. We get a better sense of the other person's communication styles, and also what they're looking for.
It's easy to take one on ones for granted. But with some attention and care, effective one on ones are a great tool for your career. Agendas and notes keeps everyone focused, while review and follow up prevents things from being forgotten or neglected. Over time, these meetings become an open and safe place to talk about long term goals.